Beer is Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder

Since 2009, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing has been producing Maiden the Shade, a “summer IPA” created to help celebrate an annual fair.

It recently received a new look, bringing it to my attention for the first time, thanks to East Coast selection bias and that peskiness of distribution. I can say nothing for the beer, having never had it, but the forethought of that brand sure caught my attention. In recent years, the prescience of the Pacific Northwest in regard to beer and love of all things hop seems like a future that had long been planned, but perhaps America’s love affair with IPA wasn’t always a guaranteed thing.

Either way, the idea of a “summer IPA” sounds pretty damned smart right about now.

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The Road Ahead for Boston Beer: Where They’re Going, They Don’t Need Definitions

flames

Over the last few posts, we’ve tried to take a deep dive into Boston Beer to better grasp their business practices and more important, highlight how their decisions are influenced by a beer-loving culture established by chairman Jim Koch.

Depending on your level of beer nerdom – *points at self* – there may be a question underlying all the business talk and expansion and product creation: is Boston Beer too big to be craft beer?

My answer: who cares?

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Diversifying Boston Beer: How a Company Mindset Leads Growth, Innovation

sam lineup-boston beer

“They all want to grow, but the more they grow the less crafty they are,” he said. “They are getting fairly large and they are getting into each other’s space. They are having a hard time defining themselves as craft brewers because of their size.”
Pete Coors

You may recall the above foolishness of the MillerCoors chairman in May, when he made some rather wrong misguided surprising comments about the beer industry – especially the craft segment. Throughout Coors’ gripes, it was clear he has a disconnect from the state of the industry, but especially a misunderstanding of his main competitors in craft.

While a definition of “craft beer” may be bestowed upon companies like Boston Beer, there is little difficulty for these breweries to adhere to their own roots and belief systems. Especially when product diversification continues to play a pivotal role in daily operations.

Today’s plight of breweries isn’t just making good beer, it’s making a variety of beer that is also good.

When it comes to marketing and production, a brewery may focus on the biggest demographic of craft beer drinkers: Millennials. If the largest group of potential customers takes a laissez-faire attitude toward brand loyalty, a brewer needs to focus on variety:

Craft beers appear to be the biggest beneficiaries of that adventurous character. Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association, says 46% of new craft beer drinkers are Millennials. Even when craft beer drinkers do “commit” to a brand, that “adventurous” character seems to mean they’re still interested in variety.

jim-koch

Jim Koch and his … variety.

But this post is not about Millennials. It’s about Boston Beer. If the idea of new discovery is pivotal to your brewery’s fan base – increasingly so for all demographics – what are you supposed to do when you’re a successful company nearing $1 billion in annual revenue?

You either double-down on what you have, stay satisfied and minimize your overall potential or you recognize the opportunity to grow, innovate and continue to push. Which one do you suspect Boston Beer chariman Jim Koch would learn toward?

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Big Boss Harvest Time … it’s a pumpkin beer, so you know it’s good

Creepy levitating Harvest Time

As we roll into the end of October, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we are sadly into the waning days of the pumpkin beer. Winter and holiday styles have already started showing up in my local beer store, considering pumpkin beers were being delivered in mid-July.

As a lover of all things pumpkin, this saddens me. I’ll only have my homemade pumpkin pies to keep my belly full until I give that up sometime in mid-winter. So, for now, I’m enjoying pumpkin beers while they still last. One of my favorite fall seasonals comes from a local brewery, Big Boss. The Raleigh-based brewery puts out Harvest Time, which currently sits at 85 on Beer Advocate and was even featured this week as one of “7 Great Pumpkin Beers” on MadeMen.com.

What does this ghoulish brew have to offer? Hit the jump to find out.
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Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Fall means football, cooler weather and most important – pumpkin beer. Served, of course, with pumpkin pie.

I am incredibly passionate for anything pumpkin, which is why I typically have a pumpkin pie in my fridge most weeks between September and December. It’s just the right thing to do, in my opinion. So this is why I’m also excited about the yearly release of pumpkin beers, even if it does start in July. However, being the purist I am, I have now officially kicked off the season with my first pumpkin beer, Pumple Drumkin from Cisco Brewers, a new arrival to the Triangle from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (God save it!). It’s got a 84 on Beer Advocate.

*Sidenote: As pumpkin beers tend to be a polarizing style, I should clarify that what I want from a pumpkin beer is full-on pumpkin pie-like flavor. Use Pumking as a reference and go from there. I don’t want a spiced ale, I want an orchestra of sugary, pumpkin goodness in my liver stomach.*

Thankfully, Pumple Drumkin met me half way there.

Like most pumpkin beers, Drumkin poured orange-hued with deep pumpkin pie orange sitting on top of pocket of gold at the bottom of my glass. There was barely carbonation, but that didn’t stop the beer from bringing forth the typical aromas you’d find – lots of sweet malt and caramel with an easy pick up of nutmeg and ginger. The pumpkin smell is hiding at the back with just a touch of cinnamon. Clove is knocking at the door but just can’t quite come in.

What I found funny was that with a general lack of intense carbonation, the beer still felt very bubbly and light on my tongue. The taste comes forward with the same pumpkin spices at first and finishes with an almost roasted pumpkin flavor. Sadly for me, that flavor was more of real pumpkin or pumpkin seed than of pumpkin pie. Fine, but not what I want.

While I can’t find easy information about what hops Cisco used, I suspect that balance of pumpkin flavor comes from the hop bitterness mixing with all the other characteristics. I note this because after a few sips of the beer, a bite of the pumpkin pie knocks out most of the pumpkin flavor and really brings an almost hoppy amber ale quality to the beer. This is something I find common for most pumpkin beers, for good or bad.

… and all this also changes as the beer warms. I’ve found that the flavor I’m looking for from my pumpkin beers often takes 20-30 minutes before it’s ready to come out and play, and that was the case with Drumkin. I do think that the relative balance of all the typical pumpkin beer flavors and hops makes this a good version of the style for non-pumpkin beer fans, though.

Hit the jump for my Rate That Beer sheet.
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